Monday, 20 October 2014

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Ted and the Kings of Crispland ...

.. yes it's really true that 6.2 billion packets of crisps are consumed in the UK each year, that’s around 150 packets for each and every one of us!! Surprisingly (to me anyway) they were actually invented in America, where they are called “potato chips”. According to well-informed sources it was a chap called George Crum who created the original recipe back in 1853 in Saratoga Springs, New York. The global market for these little beauties is worth around US$ 20 billion a year (boy am I in the wrong job) and accounts for just short of 40% of the total snacks market.

They appear in almost every country in some form or other, often with their own local names and a range of distinctive and national flavours supplementing the more established and traditional selection. Flavours like guacamole, dill pickle, tomato ketchup, jerk chicken, wasabi, barbeque, paprika, chilli, scallop, teriyaki, sausage, chutney, and even marmite, the list seems almost endless. The multitude of flavourings available today were made possible courtesy of a little crisp flavouring technique patented in the 1950’s by an Irishman called yes .. Joe “Spud”  Murphy, owner of the Tayto crisp company.  Before Spud (BS) the choice of flavours was well plain and plainer with salt ...

Other “improvements” on the original have had more to do with the packaging, with the aim of trying to keep them as fresh and unbroken as possible. Today they are packed in plastic bags and filled with nitrogen just before sealing, although I fear nothing offers fool proof protection against a supermarket shelf stacker on a bad day after their football team has lost.

With this great bounty available I decided we had to have a crisp challenge and so I assembled a crack team of top tasters to put some crisps through their paces. Here they are the “Kings of Crispland” about to embark on their mission.

Twelve packets to be rated 1 (bad) to 5 (great) by look, taste and texture. A couple of packets from outside the UK, Spain and South Africa, just to keep things a bit global. I have included the handwritten results table for your ongoing analysis and enjoyment, but a couple of general comments first. We did an “averaging” of the scores to avoid punch ups, whether you did or didn’t like the flavour(s) being tasted had a significant impact on score, and we all fell for a big manly looking nicely tanned ridge cut flame grilled steak crisp half way through, and on reflection now think it is scored a point too high. 

And finally … I can't go without saying this ... anything that is made by extruding or pressing potato “dough” into a uniform size, shape and texture (like Pringles) should be run out of town for registering off the boring scale ... and that's the least of their many sins against crisps!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Man and his Machine

He spent the entire day polishing his steam engine water board truck.  Pride as much as anything else keeps these old vehicles running in tip top shape so we the public can enjoy them on special occasions.  This outing was part of the celebrations of the way Kings Cross station was during Victorian times.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Recycling in the Hands of an Artist

A whole lot of rubbish or  - "A Partial Disassembling of an Invention Without a future: Helter-Skelter and Random Notes in Which the Pulleys and Cogwheels Are Lying Around at Random All Over the Workbench."

London born artist Walead Beshty, who lives and works in Los Angeles, spent a year gathering discarded paper, cardboard and pieces of wood creating more than 12,000 prints using the cyanotype process.  Most of the pieces of discard materials were gathered on the walk between his home and studio.   Except for the the last month of the commision when the materials were gathered near and around the Barbican where the work is currently showing.

Each piece has been catalogued and photographed both front and back with the photographed images placed in a series of large art books.  The prints themselves are methodically placed on the wall in chronological order from the day he started the project until the last discarded ticket found near the Barbican 12 months later.

The work is currently showing at the Curve Gallery at the Barbican until 8 February 2015.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Candlemakers

Originally known as cirgers with talents such as embalming, creating wax models as well as candles and seals, the wax chandlers as they became known from 1330 is one of the smallest guilds in the city of London, with just 120 members in the 21st century.  There is mention of the trade as early as the 1st century.  The majority of wax chandlers died during the black plague, 1348-1350 the most dangerous time to be an embalmer.

They were of course much larger in the middle ages and very important as their status of being the 20th guild implies.  In all there are 110 guilds.  The first place is held by the Worshipful Company of Mercers.

The current building of the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers is on the same site they have occupied since 1501.  This, their 6th building was substantially rebuilt in 1954 after damage during WWII.  

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

For Katharine

A few days ago Katherine of art-e-facts asked "where is Kings Place?"
It is in York Way in Kings Cross. Home to the London Symphony Orchestra.  A place for art, music, food, and events.  Sip a glass of wine looking out over Regents Canal and watch the sun go down and see some of London's best sunsets.  Ok not today unless you're a duck or just love watching the rain.  However, today you could have some hot soup and look at the art then take in a concert.

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Printers

A newsboy, a printer and an editor now sit in the tranquil garden of the goldsmiths guild, it was moved from its original spot at New Street Square in Holborn when that area was redeveloped.  The sculpture was created by Wilfred Dudeney (1932-1996), the son of a journalist.  The work was commissioned in 1956 and is the only known sculpture representing newspapers.  

Sunday, 12 October 2014

If only Ted gave a star ...

The Michelin Guide did it's annual awards of stars last month ... I don't have much to say about it really (I'll leave that to the experts) but what I will say is that, with a few notable exceptions, pretty much every place that got at least one star is beyond the reach of the wallet of your average punter for anything except a special occasion, if then even. I think this is a bit of a sad situation.

So in response I took myself off to try a place where ordinary folk who spend too much of their income on food and wine (ie me) might actually feel their overall experience was value for money. In my humble opinion (imho) the perfect way to spend an autumn Sunday afternoon is to have lunch!!

I made my way through Soho on a sunny gorgeous blue skyed day, marvelling at how autumn can make even the grimiest parts of any city look attractive. Sunlight melted to golden hues, making the buildings look almost proud of themselves ...lalalalala ... I was headed for the italian gem in Archer street, Bocca di Lupo.

However, getting there wasn't without its challenges as the street was being used for a 1920’s film shoot.  A man in a fluro jacket tackled me and assured me that they would keep my table until the shooting of this scene was over. Once inside the manager pointed out that one building opposite hadn't actually had anything done to it maintenance wise since about 1920 and thus was a great fit for the movie set.

Bocca di Lupo presents dishes from the different parts of Italy, and it would not be out of place itself in the Italian regions that inspire it. The wine list is a well priced real winner too.

All good restaurants and successful restaurateurs know that the food is only part of the deal, and while it has to be very good, it's the overall experience that makes the occasion memorable, and the reason why you come back. From the gorgeous Welsh waitress who looked after my every need, to cosmopolitan kitchen and bar staff, and the friendly and knowledgeable manager, they all seemed genuinely proud to be part of it all.

When you are done being pampered and eating and drinking rather well, because you will no matter what you choose, and want to extend the experience ... then wander across the street to their little sister Gelupo (with a 1920's bakery frontage the day I visited) and pick up a very moreish gelato to enjoy as you wander the city streets at dusk.  

Saturday, 11 October 2014

A Step Back in Time

Assembling Kings Cross in the 1930's.  "Twenty-five years, £200,000 and one wife." according to the man behind this real labour of love.  The incredible working model of Kings Cross will be on display today and tomorrow at Granary Square.

The detail in every piece is extraordinary. The woman standing on an apartment building smoking a cigarette, the coffins in the out building at the undertakers, the coal loader for the railway wagons.  Every piece has been researched, measured and recorded to create an accurate representation of the period.  And the painting of it all was done by Roger Daltrey, yes that one, of the Who.

I'm off to see it all working with trains running and lights flashing.

Friday, 10 October 2014


Of course I only discover the giant bear on the last day it will be standing here.  I might just go back and see if they (whoever they may be) have changed their minds and the bear will not go into hibernation during winter.  Quite like the idea of a bear covered in snow (assuming we get snow this winter).  He is (or was) standing on the corner of Oxford St and Quebec St a sculpture created by artist Nick Bibby.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Butterflies and Rum

When the butterflies dance on the sugar cane it is time to harvest and make the rum.  These ones have landed in Shoreditch at the Angostura Butterfly House pop-up plantation and cocktail bar.

Open until Sunday, you can join Angostura's master distiller in tastings; be enchanted with beautiful butterflies and learn all about them from expert Luke Brown; all the while sipping on delicious sugar cane inspired cocktails made by the international cocktail champion Mike Tomasic and his team.  Details here.

Angostura Butterfly House, 31 New Inn Yard, Shoreditch EC2A 3EY.
Thursday 9 October to Sunday 12 October.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Last of the Lazy Sunny Days

Not too many days left to enjoy the sunshine in a deck chair.  Slowly being packed away for another year.  

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Staying Indoors

It's too wet to go outdoors at present.  Yes I know you can get great rain pictures but I'm preferring to stay warm and dry thanks.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Hysterical Bird

Well you would wouldn't you.  Get hysterical, if a great big building was stuck in your flight path.
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